In 2004, 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo sporting a frizzy look, wearing a loose Portuguese top uncharacteristic of current times, yet to be proven, was seen shedding tears as he sat down on home soil. The pitch at that moment could not have felt any stiffer. Dreams shattered, crushed into pieces in front of 62,865 spectators in Lisbon losing the European title to the hands of – not Spain, not Germany, or Brazil, but Greece. As painful as it was Cristiano turned to the heavens for another shot at glory.
Fast forward to current times, many had said that it was too late. Was there mercy and blessings to be sent over the Portuguese, to clinch the ever-eluding status of an national team champion? A thought I had, along with million others, when you see the names of the Portugal squad printed in the team sheets.
The journey between those twelve long years was filled with mixed emotions. It was difficult at times, yet glorious. While he lifted several club trophies, including the Champions League and Ballon d’Or with two different clubs becoming the most valuable player at one point, he never came as close to a trophy with the national team as he did on that night of fourth of July.
But there was always an upside, always. The very failure that haunted him for twelve excruciating years, kept him going, with an unceasing drive to go that one bit further, to win more, or at least just one title while representing Portugal.
Is a hungry lion more dangerous than a well fed one?
This lion was certainly hungry. That moment had finally come. But the only difference this time around was that he was an opponent facing a home team who had were starving from the same success. In Stade de France, God had granted him his well-deserved chance, after years of dedication and perseverance.
Twelve years later, a healthier, yet thirstier lion flexed his muscles while his top fit perfectly to define the edges of his well chiseled body. Similar story yet a very different Cristiano.
The odds of Portugal winning were the same as Greece winning twelve years ago. Greece had snatched victory from underneath their foots. So naturally, one asked why couldn’t Portugal take it away from the French? Heaps of pressure fell on Ronaldo, more than there ever had been on any player in recent times, including Messi’s failure with Argentina at the Copa.
Football is fair to none. It was any different for Cristiano on that special day. He was made to shed his tears earlier in the first half. Tears of despair they were. This journey was not easy at all, not one bit, as he was stretchered in the 25th minute. It almost seemed like the end. But the Portuguese rallied for their nation, and for Cristiano. And it made up for all the frustrations their captain had suffered in their hands.
Hurt and injured, yet he came back to the insanity that was to unfold standing side by side with the manager, bursting out instructions to the players – one of which almost lead to a goal, hitting the woodwork. The moment had finally come, a clean goal from man who barely featured, and the tears of despair had finally turned into tears of joy. That broken pit troubling him had finally been paved clean, and that one spot for a national team trophy in the museum in his hometown Madeira will not be empty any more.
Featured for only 20 minutes of the game, yet his influence proved noteworthy.
The most complete player in the world, ladies and gentlemen.
It was all worth the tears of triumph in the end. The wait was finally over after twelve years.